Monday, September 28, 2009


When you consider that the Bible as we know it today was written over a period of thousands of years, by wide variety of authors, and assembled as a single document nearly two thousand years ago, it's fairly miraculous that the first three chapters of the Bible correspond so symmetrically with the last three chapters of the Bible.

In the first three chapters of the Bible, in the book of Genesis, we see a series of events that are mirrored in the last three chapters of Revelation.

First, we see the creation of heaven and earth. At the end of Revelation we see a new creation.

In the first three chapters we see Satan ensnaring mankind and in the last three we see Satan cast down and doomed forever.

In the first three chapters we see a garden, and in the last three chapters we see a garden city. Both gardens include the tree of life.

In the first three chapters we have a curse given to man for his sins, and in the last three chapters the curse if forever removed.

In the first three chapters God visits the garden once per day, and in the last three chapters God is at home with man forever.

In the first three chapters man and woman are cast out, but in the last three chapters they are welcomed in.

In the first three chapters a bride is created from out of Adam’s side, and in the last three chapters a Bride is ushered in for the Son of God and a wedding feast is celebrated.

In the first three chapters we have the beginning of Time, and in the last three we have the beginning of Eternity.

The Scriptures reveal the Church to be the Bride of the Lamb. It is one of the most common metaphors used by God to describe His people throughout the Bible. However, as I began tracing these threads between Genesis and Revelation I noticed even more about what Paul the Apostle refers to as "a profound mystery".

In Ephesians 5:25-33, Paul uses the metaphor of marriage to teach us something astounding about Jesus and about our identity as the Bride of Christ. I've edited the text to highlight the main thoughts:

"...just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless." – Eph 5:25-27

"'For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.' This is a profound mystery — but I am talking about Christ and the church." – Eph 5:31-32

Because this passage is so often used to counsel men and women in regards to the marriage relationship, I have removed those references so that we can see what Paul says he is actually talking about: "Christ and the church".

First, Paul tells us how Christ has given himself up for us (the Bride) and how he cleanses and washes us through the word of God so that we might be ready for our wedding day. Paul also quotes from Genesis chapter 2 in this passage and this reminds us of how God put Adam to sleep and made a woman for him because "God saw that it was not good for man to be alone". Notice it was God's idea, not Adam's, for man to have a wife. Somehow this reference points to God's plan for the Church. As Paul reminds us - "For this reason" the man is to "leave his father and mother and be united with his wife and the two will become one flesh". This is where Paul pauses and remarks that "this is a profound mystery". Why? Because he is not talking about Adam and Eve now. He's not talking about Christian marriage between a man and a woman. No, he is talking about Jesus and the Church "becoming one flesh".

We know from God’s word that we (the Church) are the Bride of Christ (Eph 5:22-33). But in Revelation we learn that the Bride is also a City:

"One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came and said to me, 'Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.' And he carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God." – Rev 21:9-10

We are the Bride, and the Bride is a City.

We also know that we are the Temple of God (Eph 2:21), but in Revelation we discover that it is Christ who is the Temple in us:

"The great street of the city was of pure gold, like transparent glass. I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple." – Rev 21:21-22

So, we are the Temple where God dwells within, but we are also the Bride which is a city and in that city is a Temple which is the Lord Himself.

Want to see how this is played out in the rest of the Scriptures? In the Gospel of John, beyond the prayer of Jesus to the Father that we (the Bride) would be one even as Jesus and the Father are one, Christ also prays:

"Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me." – John 17:21-23.

In Ephesians 2:21 we are told that we are the Temple of God, as we have already seen, but look at what this passage actually communicates. Try to guess where God ends and we begin here:

"In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit." – Eph 2:21-22

Here we see that we (the Church/Bride/Body/Temple) are being built to become a dwelling in which God lives, and yet the Temple is being built "in him". So, we are being built in Christ to become a Temple where God will dwell by His Spirit. Who is on the inside? Who is dwelling where? We are in Christ, and we contain God's Spirit all at the same time.

In 1 Corinthians 12, and in Ephesians 4:15, Paul gives us another wonderful illustration of how the Body is to function. He refers to the Church as the Body of Christ and explains that we are dependent upon one another for life, and yet that Christ is our Head and without Him we can do nothing (see also John 15:5). Here we have a wonderful picture of the unity which Jesus prayed we would have (John 17:21-23) and a fulfillment of the picture that we are "one flesh" (Genesis 2:24, Eph 2:21), with Christ since we are His Body and He is our head.

As I look at who we are in Christ, (His Body, Temple and Bride), and as I see God's sovereign plan from the beginning (to find a Bride for His Son, and a Temple for His presence), and as I hear the prayer of Jesus that we be in Him and that we be one even as He and the Father are one, I cannot help but feel an urgency to tear down our man-made divisions and embrace our identity as members of one Body, with one Head.

This mystery is quite profound. One worthy of our awe. It is not my goal to explain or understand this mystery. One dear brother I shared this with recently said to me, "Let it continue to be a mystery in your heart" and that is my intention. This is a profound mystery and what we must contemplate is not how to make sense of it, but instead how to live out our part of it. How can we be one in Christ? How can we make Christ the head of our Body? How can we be the Temple of the Living God? How can we make ourselves ready for that glorious wedding day to come?

The last thing I see as I look at the symmetry between Genesis and Revelation is that all of History ends with a wedding. All that we have known, and all that we now experience is only the courtship. This is just the engagement phase of our life with Christ. One day we will become the Bride of Christ and be one with Him. Yet, a wedding is not the end of life, it is only the very beginning. God's Word ends with a beginning.

This is a very profound mystery, indeed.


1 comment:

Tracey Alan Sheneman said...

A very thought-provoking post, Keith.

As we are each connected to the head, Christ, we are empowered by his love to do the things Christ did: to show love and mercy to those on the margins, and to call the leaders to account.